There is one group of people that I’ve not yet had the opportunity to think about their position up until now: the anti-vaccine movement in Christian circles. It mostly consists of parents who are concerned that vaccines do more harm than good. The problem is that the potential for harm is far greater among those who do not have vaccinations. Take a look at the corners of the world where vaccines aren’t prevalent:
Measles killed over 500,000 children in 2003. In Africa, many mothers do not give their children names until after they have survived this disease. Every minute, measles takes the life of a child. Not only is there a high chance of complications from a weakened immune system, but survivors may suffer blindness or deafness.
Tetanus killed 200,000 newborns and 30,000 mothers in 2001. It’s referred to as the ‘Seven-Day Death’ in the Old Testament.
Diphtheria, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) are respiratory infections that can cause chronic cough, pneumonia, or breathing difficulties. Pertussis takes the lives of 300,000 children each year while Hib takes the lives of 500,000 children each year. (Source: http://www.unicef.org/immunization/index_why.html)
Much of the fear about vaccines is connected to the prevalence of Autism. The theory is that children who take vaccines are at a greater risk to develop Autism. The science just doesn’t show a cause and effect relationship between the two: Autism’s causes are combination of genetics and environmental risk factors that affect brain development. (source: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism)
When Christians say things like: “vaccines are dangerous and ineffective” they often have no idea what life is like for an African mother whose nameless child is suffering from a disease that will either kill him or make him blind or deaf that could have been prevented if only a vaccine were available. It sounds to me that being unvacinated is far more dangerous – particularly when children are most vulnerable – before the age of five.
Earlier this year, there was a small outbreak of Measles originating from Disney World of all places. Dozens of people who hadn’t been vaccinated soon learned that it has a contagion rate of 90%. When they returned to their homes, places of work, and schools, they bought Measles with them. Because it takes about ten days for the symptoms to appear – they felt fine … until they didn’t. Each and every one of them could have avoided the medical costs of having to be hospitalized, taking sick days, and missing out on day to day life had they been vaccinated like everyone else. They were just lucky that none of them died.
So long as skipping out on vaccinations is a thing, so long as churches spread fearful warnings about it being an ‘unbiblical lack of faith in God’, and people don’t do their research, they’re creating a scenario where the horrors that African mothers live with every single day will be their own reality. The difference is that American parents have a choice – they can protect their children from contagious diseases that almost certainly will kill them or give them permanent health conditions that could have been prevented. You see, when you opt out of vaccinations, you’re counting on everyone else to have had them to decrease the likelihood of catching the disease yourself. But when others also opt-out, no one is protected. Some don’t have access to them, and the lack of protection means that it is almost certain that somebody they love will catch one of these diseases – and they will share it with everyone else who isn’t vaccinated. That’s how whole families were wiped out for much of human history.
Now is a great time to get a shot if you haven’t had one, and give a shot to help save lives.